BishopCallahanI have been hearing great news from the Archdiocese of Chicago and the dioceses of Joliet and Rockford concerning new programs to call Catholics back to active participation in their faith and to regularly attend Sunday Mass. This is inspiring news for all of us since it gives us in our Archdiocese of Milwaukee a bit of an opportunity to focus some attention on our own similar initiative called: Living Our Faith.

I’m sure you are aware that in the archdiocese we began this invitational program several years ago to rekindle a serious sense of knowledge about our wonderful Catholic faith and to promote the call to all Catholics and those interested in Catholicism to join us at Mass. Of course we have seen the familiar window signs: “See you at Mass!” in many of our cars and in windows at our homes, and we have been enlightened and educated by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan’s appearances on the Living Our Faith television broadcasts.

We’ve had great success in these areas and I want you to know that they will continue in the coming months with television and radio broadcasts already being planned and organized. I think that even Archbishop Dolan might make an appearance on one of the programs during Advent.

Living Our Faith has become an important tool in the communication efforts of the archdiocese. There are, of course, many people whom we have featured on the Web site or on the television broadcasts. They represent the wider picture of our Catholic family in action. We invite them to appear on the broadcasts so that more people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, can gain from their experiences and specific works and come to know how the faith is being lived in the wider marketplace and how the faith helps people in their daily lives doing the ordinary things that most of us do in our jobs and daily routines.

It is also important to instill in each of us a pride in our Catholic faith and an enthusiasm for how we live it day to day. That, of course, is what it’s all about – living our faith! The more we come into contact with Catholic people trying to live as Catholics, the more we start to see the challenges of life that we can confront with Gospel values and the teachings of our church.

Putting our faith into action requires us to go deeper into what we know and what we understand about being Catholic. Understanding and knowledge first come from contact with Jesus in prayer. The place to encounter Jesus most effectively is at Mass, the celebration of the
Paschal Mystery.

The church obliges us to attend Mass because of our faith in Jesus Christ. It’s as simple as that – we attend Mass because of Jesus Christ. Lumen Gentium (Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution on the church) teaches that “the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. By the eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all,” (CCC #1325-1326).

Did you get that? The Eucharist is the sign and cause of divine communion and unity by which the church is kept in being! It sure means that the Mass has some great significance to it. It certainly sounds that Christians would want to go to Mass because the Eucharist itself is the sum and summary of our faith.

As St. Irenaeus, the great patristic teacher, pointed out: “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist, in turn, confirms our way of thinking.” Jesus is our reason for going to Mass! We encounter him there and we are opened to the full mystery of God’s revelation of his Son in the flesh. As we listen to God’s Word from Scripture, we come to know of God’s special love – covenant love – by which we receive the promise of the Messiah and Savior.

In the eucharistic prayer, Jesus offers himself to the Father, through the action of the priest, and we are at the foot of the cross. In Communion, we share the living presence of the victorious and Risen Christ. We are then “sent.” That’s where the Mass gets its name – the Latin word “mittere” which means, “to send, dispatch, release.” We are sent to live our faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the world – in us!

When you really stop to think about it, wouldn’t you think it would be seriously wrong for a Catholic to deliberately not want to have this experience with Jesus Christ at least once a week on the day that celebrates his Resurrection from the dead, i.e., Sunday?!

That’s how we live our faith. Coming to know Jesus and celebrating his presence in our world and in us. See you at Mass!